Sitting on a bench with her Sinead O'Connor haircut, her bright blue vest, pink longjohns and nearly new white aerobics shoes, SID-IIs has no idea she is about to be slammed from the side by a body-in-white sled moving at 15 mph (24 km/h).
She is even more oblivious that her suffering will yield valuable information that should enable engineers to develop more effective side air bags.
Welcome to the coming out party for SID-IIs, pride and joy of the Occupant Safety Research Partnership, a collaborative venture of the Big Three and First Technology Safety Systems Inc. of Plymouth, MI, and part of the U.S. Council for Automotive Research (USCAR).
This is one sensitive gal. Who wouldn't be when your name is an acronym for Side Impact Dummy-second generation-small? Add 111 electronic sensors tucked everywhere from her skull, chest, shoulders, ribs, hips, thighs, knees and ankles, and there's not much that can't be measured when this crash-test debutante gets rammed from the side.
"Until now we've only had side impact air bags that were representative of the average size male," says Bob Hultman, principal research engineer associate at Ford Motor Co. who worked on the SID-IIs project. "Smaller people are more susceptible to injuries from the aggressive deployment of air bags, not to mention the forces from the crash itself," he says.
At a height of exactly 5 ft. and weighing a wispy 96 lbs., SID-IIs not only reflects the impact on a small woman; she's about the size of an average 12- or 13-year-old child, too.
For about $150,000 she can be yours. But production won't begin until early next year, says Tom Gutwald, vice president of First Technology.
Later this month European manufacturers will view a full-fledged crash test at Ford's technical center in Merkenich, Germany.
As a slow-motion replay of the recent sled-test shows, SID-IIs' neck snaps excruciatingly into the door during the crash. There is no side air bag to cushion her and, as federal standards require, she is not belted. Her skull flops right into the door, bouncing off the sill at the base of the passenger-side window.
Instantly, the forces hitting all 111 sensors are recorded and stored in a computer. That data will help the Mortons, TRWs, Takatas and Delphis of the world learn whether they need to reshape their first-generation side air bags or inflate them faster or slower.
When the test is over -- it all happens in .06 second, or 100 times faster than a Corvette can accelerate from 0 to 30 mph (48 km/h) -- the engineers ignore the plastic figure they created over the last 18 months. Instead, they rivet their attention to the monitor where the whole show can be replayed a frame at a time -- slowly enough to really see what happened.
Poor SID-IIs sits motionless about 60 ft. down the track, turned 90 degrees m her initial position, with her head, chest and feet all facing the door just hit. She can't even celebrate the success of her inaugural performance, and there's no applause, in any case.
But there's a higher mission: to standardize the design and, eventually, the crash test standards, globally.
Today, there are three species of dummies. First, generic SID, a child of the 1970s, where he emerged from a University of Michigan laboratory. Then came EuroSID, a more sophisticated gent developed by government engineers in Europe with European safety standards in mind.
Then, General Motors Corp. created BioSID with more refined sensors that more accurately measure the likelihood of internal organ injuries.
"The problem is they all measure side impact damage, but they each provide a different set of information," says Larry Achram, Chrysler's manager of safety, security and noise regulatory affairs.
Both OSRP and First Technologies hope that SID-IIs will become a platform for a new family of dummies and uniform global side-impact standards. That would mean lower engineering costs and would improve the marketability of many vehicles for export.
By pooling their resources, Ford, GM and Chrysler Corp. brought this dummy from computer terminal to its first crash test in 18 months. BioSID took more than two years. That means First Technology can make a sizable profit even if it only sells two or three dozen.
Now, if those innovative folks at USCAR can just come up with a more enticing name, this bald-beaded babe may become a star. But whoever heard of a girl named Sid?